When we last met, stories that had cliffhangers were written. This week, we had to take someone else’s story and provide the ending, while keeping the style as well. With the holiday week, and the degree of difficulty this challenge had, this one was really tough. I stayed up late on Friday, spending midnight to 2 am writing mine. I decided to go with Andy Rustleund’s story. Here is what he wrote last week:
The Crocville Library was nearly empty this time of year, with the summer sun burning away most students’ interest in books or studying. Earl Toulouse was normally the kind of kid that wouldn’t be caught dead in the library, even during the school year, but the library seemed to be the only place in town with the answers he needed.
Earl had always thought it was a little strange that they never got any new students in class, or that no one ever seemed to move away. Sure, most of the land in the area was a muddy swamp, but there were plenty of nice neighborhoods, a new Super Wal-Mart had just gone up on the edge of town, and the schools were supposed to be the best in the county.
But in history class, no one ever seemed to know exactly when Crocville was founded, or by whom. It wasn’t until the subject came up again later that week with his best friend Martin that Earl really got curious.
“Are you telling me you don’t know anyone who wasn’t born here?” Earl had persisted.
“That’s what I’m telling you, man. I even asked my dad,” huffed Martin on their way to the baseball field. “He said we were Louisiana’s best kept secret or something. Who gives a crap, anyway, man. We gotta get down there before they start without us. I’m not getting stuck in the outfield again.”
As Earl stood in right field, waiting for popups, he decided there had to be some other way to get more information. Tomorrow, he would make up some excuse and get down to the library. There had to be something there.
The town librarian beamed at Earl when she learned that he was interested in Crocville’s history.
“You’re in luck, young man. Mr. Porosus from the Historical Society is here today doing some research himself. Why don’t you two put your heads together and see if you can’t help each other out.”
Earl found Mr. Porosus in the back of the library hunched over a rather large tome, muttering to himself. “Excuse me. Sir…” said Earl tentatively.
Mr. Porosus looked up at Earl slowly. His wispy white hair peeked out from under a checkered hat, and although this part of the library was quite dim, the old man wore dark, gold-rimmed sunglasses on top of an long, pointed nose. His face contorted into a toothy smile.
“Mr. Toulouse. I’ve been expecting you.”
And here’s what I followed it up with:
“You have?” asked Earl, confused. Mr. Porosus beckoned with his hand. Earl walked up, pensive.
“Indeed, son. I hear you’ve been asking questions about our history. I’m always pleased when a young citizen shows interest.”
Earl relaxed a bit. “What are you reading?” His eyes widened as Mr. Porosus stepped aside.
“This,” Mr. Porosus said proudly, “is the entire history of Crocville. Quite fascinating, really. Did you realize our town’s founder was just four years old when he settled here?”
“And that’s not it. It says he promised that nobody in Crocville would ever be lonely or hungry.”
“Cool.” He glossed over the open page detailing Crocville’s first organized baseball team. “What was his name?”
“Bobby Dunbar” said Mr. Porosus. “Now if you’ll excuse me for a minute. Go ahead, take a look-see. I’ll show you more when I return.”
“Yeah, okay” Earl whispered, hopping on the stool. Excited to learn more about Bobby, he flipped the book closed. On the edge of the stool, Earl opened to page one, which was blank. Turning another page, he found the next one blank as well. Then another. And another.
Turning more rapidly, Earl saw only white. Placing his index finger where he felt Mr. Porosus was reading, he skipped ahead several hundred pages. More white. Hands shaking, he flipped back the final pages, reaching the last one. It was not blank. Two words stared up at Earl. His breath caught.
“Like what you found?” said the now ominous voice of Mr. Porosus. He placed a hand on Earl’s neck.
His touch was ice. “What the…” was all Earl could mutter before feeling a swift pain shoot through his spine.
Martin followed Earl to the library, hoping to make fun of his friend, the nerd. From behind the stacks, he watched his friend turning pages frantically. Then, a gangly man came by and appeared to calm Earl down.
Shortly, the man left the library. Martin walked towards his friend.
“Oh, hi Martin.” Earl yawned. “What’s up?”
“Dude, you looked scared for a minute. The book… is something strange in there?”
“Oh, that? Just some history stuff. Like you said, who gives a crap? See you at practice later?” Not waiting for an answer, Earl walked past Martin and out the library.
Nerd, Martin thought. Before leaving, he walked over to the tome and read two words:
And now for the judge’s thoughts:
Spooky: Mr. or Mrs. Survivor, you are trying my patience by asking me to like a meta story. However, I have to admit it’s working. Andy set up an excellent eerie tone here, and this story pays it off in a way that’s true to the tone and not in any way obvious. As Earl flipped through the book, I found myself anxious. Well done. 5
DK: Again, not as surprising a direction as some, but I think it pays off that direction really well, and it hits the mark on Porosus’s change effectively. 5
Honestly, I was hoping for 4/4. Thanks for the compliments gentlemen. My first ever perfect score couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Vogons suffered their first loss of the season and are now forced to vote somebody out.
As for the story, when I finished I was at 555 words and had to cut it down to 400 to meet game requirements. Believe it or not, what you read above is virtually the same. I eliminated a bunch of superfluous words and some flavor text that I wish I could have kept, but I did not have to change any part of the story.
It was a blast to write this. I immediately knew I wanted Mr. Porosus to be this slick, evil dude who held the secret of Crocville that needed to be kept. My mind drifted to the children’s book series about the Tripods and the “capping” process used on teenagers to essentially turn them into non-questioning servants of the aliens. The part about the book actually being blank except the final page was an addition I made while I was writing. Martin’s appearance at the end was also something I threw in at the last minute which put me way over the word limit. But I knew I had to keep it to give the ending a final kick, so I went editing away after that.
By the way, for those who didn’t Google, Bobby Dunbar is a real four-year old boy who went missing in Louisiana some hundred years ago.